KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The Kansas City Wizards may not be going to the playoffs, but they still made sure to finish 2010 in style.
The club led by manager Peter Vermes finished the season with an 11-13-6 record, just seven points behind the San Jose Earthquakes, who they shellacked 4-1 Saturday night in the final game at CommunityAmerica Ballpark behind a Birahim Diop hat trick.
The Wizards will move into their own soccer-specific stadium when construction is completed next summer. And although the team hoped to open their new home coming off an MLS Cup playoff run, Kansas City will head into the offseason with the knowledge that the groundwork has been laid for a promising 2011.
“Even before this game, the thing I was most positive about was the fact that we really built something this year, starting from preseason all the way through,” Vermes said following Saturday's victory. “I’ve talked about our style. I’ve talked about the weapons that we have. I feel comfortable that the guys have a very good foundation for that. Ending like this puts a good taste in your mouth.”
Perhaps nobody left CAB with a better feeling than Diop, who registered his second multi-goal game this season with two opportunistic headers and a 22-yard missile off a half-volley. The Senegalese forward finished the season with five goals, all of which came in two games.
“It was a game that we needed to come out and do it for ourselves and the fans,” a grinning Diop said.
Diop was just one of several changes to a lineup that included quite a few unfamiliar faces against San Jose.
Backup goalkeeper Eric Kronberg made his first career start in goal for Kansas City, playing well despite Chris Wondolowski upping his league-leading goal tally to 18. After spending most of the season on the bench, Korede Aiyegbusi, Chance Myers, Graham Zusi and Jonathan Leathers also earned starts in a victorious regular-season finale.
But even while enjoying the positive vibe that comes with finishing with a victory, the Wizards couldn’t help but wonder about what could have been after dominating an Earthquakes team that moves on to a first-round playoff matchup against the New York Red Bulls.
“There is still something that chaps me,” Vermes said, “and that’s that I think we really are good enough to be a playoff team right now. I think we missed our mark. I take responsibility for that, and we just need to be better next year because we have the horses to do it.”
Despite the obvious regrets, nobody could deny the victory provided a much-needed boost as the team prepares for a crucial 2011 season, which will also include the addition of new Designated Player Omar Bravo.
“It was a good night for the fans,” captain Davy Arnaud said. “It was a good night for our team. It was a good way for us to end the season after the disappointment of not making the playoffs.”
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